Saturday, 27 September 2014

Dartford parkrun 10 - a new stanchion transportation device, an injury and a rare outing for the 50 tee

The day after Dartford parkrun event 9, I ran the last ever Les Witton Dartford 10 during which I managed to re-awaken a foot injury which prevented me from running for 3 months in early 2013. It is now that I am supposed to say 'so this week I didn't run the parkrun'. However, although I had transfered my midweek training to the bike, I am a runner and runners are sometimes a silly bunch; especially when it comes to injuries and for me that means a huge reluctance to miss my favourite run of the week.

the new stanchion transportation device [photo:7t]

As promised in last week's blog, I can reveal the new method for transporting the stanchions to the park (this is until we get the storage box sorted out), it is a golfing bag on its wheels. This allows me to jog over to the park without crashing into lamp posts. So I took my first running steps in almost a week on the way to the park and my foot didn't do anything that convinced me to sit this week out.

So after setting up the course with Richey (ED), I took my place on the start line to run at our tenth event - Oh yes, we are now in double figures! How did that happen? Anyway I went for a cautious start to see how my foot would react. One of the younger lads slipped on the grass during the trail section so after checking if he was ok (he was) I carried on. I held back a little during the first kilometre and found that over bumpy ground it felt a little uncomfortable but once the underfoot surface was smooth the foot felt ok.

event ten gets underway [photo: gary bignell]

I decided that it was about time that I gave the old parkrun 50 club tee an airing - I hadn't worn it for well over a year and it felt good to be wearing it proudly again. The weather conditions promised to be pretty good but yet again once the running started it actually felt a bit on the humid side. The rest of the Stockwell clan were marshaling in the usual spot and this week they were joined by my mother in law who was visiting from Germany.

I increased the effort level so that by the halfway point I was running almost at my usual 5k effort level. As always with a 5k, it's over before you know it and I was slipping on the purple bum bag, volunteers' vest and the barcode scanner. This week numbers were down again with only 89 runners present, and I'm pretty sure that I spent a lot of time chatting when I was supposed to be scanning (whoops). Oh, and the bugs were biting the hell out of me again.

proudly wearing my 50 club tee [photo: gary bignell]

After the run my foot actually felt the same, if not better, than before I started. Which I thought was odd. The good news is that it doesn't seem to be any worse, however I will continue with 100% of my midweek training on the bike in an attempt to reduce the impact on it. It's made me realise just how much I had missed being out on the bike, so I am going really looking forward to doing lots of cycling.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Les Witton Dartford 10 mile race 2014

The Les Witton Dartford 10 mile road race is hosted by Dartford Road Runners (they also host the brilliant Joydens Wood 5k series) and has been part of the race calendar for at least 12 years (that's as far back as the runners world reviews go). The 2014 race was originally scheduled to take place on 19 January, but due to flooding around the start/finish area had to be postponed at the very last minute. However, this wasn't the first time it had run into trouble; the last few years had all suffered from one thing or another.

the les witton dartford 10 race director hi-vis (now a collector's item) [photo:7t]

I had heard a rumour that the race would be rescheduled for September, so I kept the month free of any other race bookings. The winter and spring passed and nothing official had been communicated. But during the summer, a date for the rescheduled event was announced. Sadly, along with the announcement came the news that this would be the last ever Les Witton Dartford 10 mile race.

number collection [photo:7t]

It's not often a race takes place within walking distance of home, so when it does, I like to enjoy the fact that I don't have to drive. On the morning of the race, I jogged the 2.5km from home to the race HQ, which was within the grounds of Dartford Football Club, and collected my race number (349) with integrated timing chip. Since moving to Dartford I feel like I have become part of the local running community and it was no surprise to see many familiar faces, including a good turnout from my running club ‘So Let’s Go Running’ (SLGR).

#teamslgr [photo: from jo conway's camera]

The race start time had been set for 8.30am, and at about 8.15am the 394 runners started to congregate near the start. I didn’t want to get caught too far back in the pack so I started just a few rows from the front, which worked out well. The race took place on undulating, and at times hilly, tarmac roads and pavements to the south of Dartford town centre and took in Darenth and South Darenth before heading back towards Dartford via Green Street Green.

runners assembling at the start [photo:7t]

At 8.30am on the dot, the race was started. The opening section was slightly downhill and featured a few speed bumps – there were plenty of marshals warning the runners about these to ensure that nobody tripped. This lead into the steepest downhill section of the course which then levelled at the lowest point of the course (8 metres elevation) and eventually delivered the runners onto the A225 (Hawley Road), which had briefly been closed to the traffic heading south in order to allow the runners a safe passage.

about 2.5k into the race on hawley road [photo:hayley miller]

The first challenging hill came at the 3.5km point where we reached Darenth Hill, and just as you think you’ve reached the top, the course turned onto Roman Villa Road where the incline continued briefly. It is at this point where one of the finest views of the day was seen – Looking to the right the runners were able to see across the fields and back down into the Darenth Valley. The summit of this hill quickly lead into the second steep descent of the day where I spotted our SLGR club chairman out with his camera.

roman villa road [photo: brian page]

The marshals were fantastic and I heard a lot of shouts of 'go Steve!' - they could of course have been for another Steve closeby, but I'll take what I can get! I had set myself the target of trying to reach the 15km point in under an hour. To do this I would need to run an average pace of just a smidgen under 4 minutes per kilometre. Once I had passed the 3 mile marker I kept glancing down at my Garmin until it showed 5 kilometres, which I reached in 19.45 – A few seconds ahead of target, which was good as I had got Darenth Hill out of the way and still stayed within the time goal.

the race route and traffic diversions

There were two water stations out on the course and the first one appeared around about here – I took some water at this point. After this, the race entered a longer uphill drag with the runners tackling Holmesdown Hill before turning onto Gill’s Road and continuing the undulating climb up to the highest point (84 metres elevation) of the course at just after 5 miles (8.6 kilometres). Again there were nice views across the Kent countryside. I've forgotten my exact halfway time, but I'm pretty sure that my Garmin time had 33 at the beginning.

the first water station [photo:debbie sawyer]

The section between 9km and 15km is mostly flat or downhill. It started with me missing my 10k split but my GPS data suggests that it was just a smidgen under 40 minutes. A few metres after passing the 10k point, the route turned off of the quiet, closed country lanes and the runners now had to run on the pavement adjacent to Green Street Green. The pavement was a little uneven in places and it was along this stretch that I felt like I was having trouble maintaining my pace, but this was not the case as each time I checked my Garmin, the split remained fairly even at a pace either just below or bang on 4 minutes per kilometre.

the hill profile from my strava gps data (strava made the course long, but it wasn't)

As I approached the 15 kilometre point, I knew that the final section would be tough. Awaiting the runners was Trolling Down Hill, which isn't that steep but at the end of a 10 mile race it isn't a welcome sight! During the hill climb I heard my Garmin beep at me to notify me that I had hit the 15 kilometre point, and glancing down I saw that my time was 59.50. I was pleased to have achieved my goal of hitting 15km in under the hour, but at that exact point the hill felt steeper, a headwind blew and again I felt like I was losing pace.

green street green [photo:brian page]

Once at the top of the incline, the course went past my running club’s Tuesday evening meeting point at Leigh Technology College / Goals Football Centre, and then after turning left onto Princes Road (still on the pavement) the runners were directed through the Princes Road entrance to Dartford Football Club where the finish line, very nice bespoke medal, a banana and water awaited. After a brief recovery, I headed back over to the finish line to see if I could spot any familiar faces as they finished.

dartford football club [photo:7t]

The official results were published online later that day. I finished in 33rd position in a time of 1:04.49 which was only 19 seconds off my 10 mile personal best that I had set earlier in 2014 at the Hildenborough 10. So considering this is definitely not a pb course, I was really pleased with my overall performance. I did unfortunately aggravate an old injury during the race and it looks like I'll have to make a few adjustments to my training for a bit; I have been neglecting the cycling lately and it's a good reason to get some decent mileage on the bike instead.

#teamslgr post run [photo: from richey estcourt's camera]

Thanks to all of the marshals and supporters out on the course. I've used quite a selection of your photos here so thank you for sharing them (it's quite possible that I didn't ask if I could use them; I hope you don't mind). During the course of the morning I recognised so many faces from running clubs and of course from Dartford parkrun. Talking of parkrun, I counted three parkrun event directors taking part in the race - one of them even won a prize.

10 miles done, i look quite pleased with myself [photo: debbie sawyer]

Overall a very enjoyable 10 mile race around the quiet country lanes. It's a shame that just as I have arrived in Dartford the race is disappearing. The good news, however, is that while this particular race has been consigned to the history books, Dartford Road Runners have hinted that something else will take its place but as of yet the details are unknown. One thing I do know is that with DRR behind it it's bound to be a great event.

the final les witton dartford 10 medal [photo:7t]

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Dartford parkrun 9 - running with the Mays, a p2 finish and a hurdling four year old

I can't believe we have had 9 Dartford parkruns already! Interesting that if I had continued my weekly parkrun touring, I would have hit 90 different venues today. Also interesting is that at the moment I feel no real urge to resume the touring - I'm absolutely loving being part of this great community in Dartford. In fact I think I would really miss my new Saturday morning routine if I went elsewhere.

After meeting Richey (ED) at 7.30am as always, we headed around the course to set it up. Richey had brought his SLGR-themed litter picking device with him but unlike the last few weeks there was no significant litter on the course that we had to (litter)pick up. It was also a relief to not have to hear and watch another pigeon fight (see event 8's blog post for details).

nice framing (footstrike looks like it's going to be decent too) [photo: carl gardner]

We must be getting quite slick at setting the course up because once we had finished, we stood near the start/finish and wondered where everyone was - It was quite odd to have everything ready and no runners or volunteers around to chat to. However in true parkrun style, eventually people started to appear.

My run was pretty interesting - Over the first 9 events I have quite often found myself running alongside Derren and Archie May (father and son, I think) and today was no different. We always seem to finish in a slightly different order but only a few seconds apart, so this week once the eventual first finisher had left us for dust, the three of us got down to work to fight out second, third and fourth places. It was quite hard work as the conditions were quite muggy.

a photo taken by my four year old daughter [photo: matilda]

For the first 2 kilometers, I hung back in p4. Then towards the end of the first lap I moved ahead of Archie and into p3, and then as we turned onto Mick Jagger's leg I moved up into p2 - this lasted a minute or so until Derren took the place back. As we turned onto the grass and trail section I hung behind him until we emerged at the football fields.

At this point I decided it was time to attempt to get back into p2, so pushed the pace up and moved back into second position. Once there I continued the stronger pace right through to the end of the run - I even managed to run my 5th kilometre a full 20 seconds faster than the 4th (to be fair the 4th km does have an incline in it, but I'm not usually that much quicker).

the stones corner gang return with the signage [photo: 7t]

It was definitely a good run for learning where and where not to push the pace on this course, so although I was a little slower than last week I was really happy with the way I ran. I swiftly moved onto a bit of barcode scanning once my run was over, where in-between chatting I managed to scan a couple of barcodes!

I processed the results again this week, but this time almost with no help from Tessa (just the occasional nod to confirm that I had done things right). We managed to get the results through to parkrun HQ just before the parkrun systems had some issues. However this was sorted by the tech team swiftly and all was well again in parkrun world.

matilda setting up the practice jumpy wotsit [photo:7t]

During the results processing session, Matilda was out on the Dartford Harriers track practising her hurdling skills (instagram video). It looked like fun. After the run, me and Matilda spent some time on the zip line in the playground and then took some photos. Later in the day we sorted out a new system for transporting the stanchions over to the park (until we get the storage box sorted of course) - more about that next week!

Friday, 19 September 2014

New Balance 1080v4

Being such a big fan of the New Balance 1080v3, I was very happy when recieved a pair of the next generation 1080s, the v4, for review. In order to be transparent, these shoes were provided free of charge. However, all opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

new balance 1080v4 white, blue and yellow colourway [photo:7t]

The description from the New Balance UK website is as follows:

Men's Road - New Balance 1080v4
Make running a luxurious ride with the 1080v4, a men’s shoe that combines the deluxe fit of a FantomFit upper with the stability of T-Beam and an asymmetrical heel counter. The premium cushioning of N2 in the heel and N2 Burst in the forefoot gives you exceptional response as you push off, and the no-sew material application means a snug, firm fit. The 1080v4: the stuff runners' dreams are made of.
292 grams (10.2 oz)


  • 8mm drop: due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to 8mm drop are approximate
  • ABZORB® Crash Pad allows enhanced motion control and stability within the heel
  • Abzorb® Strobel Board runs full length of shoe to maximize shock absorption and comfort
  • Blown rubber outsole
  • No-sew material application
  • Synthetic/Mesh upper

Tech Information

ACTEVA™ LITE premium lightweight midsole provides optimal resistance to compression set - 24% lighter than standard foam

N2 low-to-the-ground cushioning technology is a responsive, durable, sustainable cushioning system in a low profile execution

T-beam is a lightweight, flexible TPU shank engineered to deliver optimum torsional stability and arch support through a unique center beam design.

Essentially that all sounds very similar to the v3. The shoe retains its 8mm heel to toe drop, which seems to work well for me.

I have been wearing the New Balance 1080v3 as my main running shoe for over a year and I have had no complaints about it. The problem with liking the v3 so much is that it was going to be a hard act to follow.

The first thing I noticed with the v4 is that the tongue felt much thicker than the previous model. To me, this is neither good nor bad, just different. It is all part of the overall cosy feel of the shoe.

The second and more important change that I was immediately aware of was the fit around the heel. The v3 hugged my heel perfectly, but the v4 is a little wider. In fact it is so wide that I had to go away and do some research on different lacing methods before I could get them to fit well enough to actually go out and run in them.

So in order to make the shoe fit properly, I had to use the extra eyelets at the very top of the shoe. Once using this method of lacing I was finally able to run in them. I'm happy to say that with this issue out of the way the shoe started to feel similar to the v3, but possibly just a tad firmer underfoot.

However, I understand from reviews and other information on the internet, the v4 is not made on the same last as the v3. So it is really a different shoe rather than just an updated aesthetic design.

I sometimes feel like I'm floating on air as I run along the road. And with that in mind, I'd liken the 1080 model to a plush family car with lots of comfy suspension. They are great for a long distances, but not the greatest at negotiating tight corners at a fast pace. Don't get me wrong, I haven't lost traction, but the spongy feel isn't best suited to tight corners - For this type of course I'd maybe look for something little firmer (or stop being so picky). However, this doesn't take away the fact that I am still a huge fan of the 1080 model.

Being a good, comfy, longer distance shoe, when I do finally enter a marathon I suspect the New Balance 1080 shoes will play a huge part in my training and of course be my shoes of choice for the big day. For me the 1080v3 still has a slight edge, but once I had resolved the issue with the fit around the heel, I really got used to to feel of these shoes and really do like them.

[as I put more miles on these shoe I will probably add updates to this post]

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